• Thu. Mar 16th, 2023

Brianne Kimmel built $40 billion Covid pandemic empire

In her 20s and while doing some soul searching on a working holiday visa in Australia, American woman Brianne Kimmel began dipping her toe in angel investing.

Little did she know that a few years down the track she would hold the title of one of the world’s best-performing venture capitalists with an incredible portfolio worth $40 billion.

Now aged 34, she has shared how a few masterful pre-pandemic bets paid off in the most enormous way imaginable.

With the backing of tech powerhouses like Zoom, Dropbox, Slack and Zendesk, Ms Kimmel by September 2019 had raised $10 million in funding to pursue a venture of her own.

Ms Kimmel, in just three years, achieved an impressive 700 per cent return on that fund, and has already started paying investors dividends – something she conceded was “kind of unheard of”.

“We had many companies that we had invested in that were valued at greater than 100x (100 times original investment), so we sold some of those shares so we could start paying back investors early,” she said.

Spotting trends and pouring money into companies embracing modern approaches to work was largely what Ms Kimmel attributed to her behemoth success.

She founded Worklife Ventures in 2019 and has since injected funds into companies including Webflow, WorkOS, Pipe, Deel, Clubhouse and Hopin.

Nine companies to gain her support have since earned the “unicorn” label – a name given to privately held start-up companies with a value of more than $1 billion.

“My strength definitely lies in spotting trends early and so I was very much a believer in remote work and more flexible work before the pandemic,” Ms Kimmel said.

“So I started investing in tools that made that possible, then the pandemic happened and all of those things came to be true.”

Having already invested prior to the pandemic in companies that helped streamline working from home, during lockdown she turned her focus to Artificial Intelligence and workplace automation.

Keeping a keen eye on outcomes of employee surveys was one of the most valuable tools Ms Kimmel used to shape the direction of her investments.

“The interesting thing with remote work was that workers were already asking for it, the issue was that we need employers to really catch up,” she said.

“I remember reading a couple of surveys where the majority of people wanted to work from home at least two days a week for the rest of their lives, and that was before the pandemic.”

Even now, her company will run up to three surveys a month to stay across what employees are feeling.

While Ms Kimmel enjoyed a rapid upward trajectory to success, she said she didn’t have much at the start.

“It wasn’t until about five years into my tech career that I started angel investing. I started with really small techs and anywhere from $5000 to $10,000, whatever I could scrape together out of my savings account,” she said.

“I reached a point where a few of my investments started doing well and I built a list of high net-worth folk. I talked to the CEO of Zoom, the founders of Twitch and Spotify and YouTube, from cold calling and cold messaging folks that I knew had money.”

She added there was an entirely new style to making money in 2022 compared to 10 years ago, when wealth was typically reserved for people who were born into it.

Nowadays, it was more than possible to be an everyday person and “find yourself with these life changing outcomes”, she said.

“It is very possible to be a good person in business, and it’s very possible to write small cheques into the next big start-up, and that can mean really life changing wealth.”

Keep the conversation going, email brooke.rolfe@news.com.au

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